The Danger of Plastic Bags

Today, I received an email that contained a PowerPoint file with a presentation on the problems with plastic bags and the environment. I felt that it was extremely important for this information to get out and is very relevant to Panama and the future of Panama as well as every other location on this Earth.

I searched the Internet to try to find the presentation so it could be viewed, but I was unable to find it. Since it is 3.5 meg of information, I decided it would cause too much traffic for my  site, so converting it to a post became the next best option.

If after reading the post, you want the original PowerPoint presentation, you can email me and I will send you a copy. You email provider will have to allow large attachments.

So lets begin.

The Danger of Plastic Bags

Data released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency shows that somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.
Source:National Geographic News September 2, 2003

Less than 1% of bags are recycled. It cost more to recycle a bag than to produce a new one.
Source: – Christian Science Monitor News Paper

There’s harsh economics behind bag recycling: It costs $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags, which can then be sold on the commodities market for $32”
Source: – Jared Blumenfeld (Director of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment)

Then where do they go?

A study in 1975, showed oceangoing vessels together dumped 8 million pounds of plastic annually. The real reason that the world’s landfills weren’t overflowing with plastic was because most of it ended up in an ocean-fill.
Source: US National Academy of Sciences

Bags get blown around…

…to different parts of our lands

…and to our seas, lakes and rivers.

Bags find their way into the sea via drains and sewage pipes.
Source: – November 16, 2007

Plastic bags have been found floating north of the Arctic Circle near Spitzbergen, and as far south as the Falkland Islands
Source: – British Antarctic Survey

Plastic bags account for over 10 percent of the debris washed up on the U.S. coastline
Source: – National Marine Debris Monitoring Program

Plastic bags photodegrade:Over time they break down into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers.
Source: – November 16, 2007

which eventually contaminate soils and waterways.
Source: – November 16, 2007

As a consequence microscopic particles can enter the food chain
Source: – – November 16, 2007

The effect on wildlife can be catastrophic
Source: – World Wildlife Fund Report 2005

Birds become terminally entangled
Source: – World Wildlife Fund Report 2005

Nearly 200 different species of sea life including whales, dolphins, seals and turtles die due to plastic bags
Source:- World Wildlife Fund Report 2005

They die after ingesting plastic bags which they mistake for food
Source: – World Wildlife Fund Report 2005

So What do we do?

If we use a cloth bag, we can save 6 bags a week

That’s 24 bags a month

That’s 288 bags a year

That’s 22,176 bags in an average life time

If just 1 out of 5 people in our country did this we would save 1,330,560,000,000 bags over our life time

Bangladesh has banned plastic bags
Source: – March 8, 2007

China has banned free plastic bags.
Source: – January 9, 2008

Ireland took the lead in Europe, taxing plastic bags in 2002 and have now reduced plastic bag consumption by 90%.
Source: – BBC News August 20, 2002

In 2005 Rwanda banned plastic bags.
Source: – Associated Press

Israel, Canada, western India, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Taiwan, and Singapore have also banned or are moving toward banning the plastic bag.
Source : – February 16, 2008

On March 27th 2007, San Francisco becomes first U.S. city to ban plastic bags.
Source: – (National Public Radio)

Oakland and Boston are considering a ban.
Source:- The Boston Globe May 20, 2007

Plastic shopping bags are made from polyethylene: a thermoplastic made from oil.
Source: – November 16, 2007

Reducing plastic bags will decrease foreign oil dependency.

China will save 37 million barrels of oil each year due to their ban of free plastic bags.
Source: – January 9, 2008

It is possible…

: My friend Omar, who has the blog “Lingua Franca” was kind enough to provide me a translation of the presentation into Spanish. I have used his work to make a Spanish version in the PowerPoint format. It is also available on request

23 thoughts on “The Danger of Plastic Bags

  1. Hi Don:

    Excellent post about the danger plastic bags. I hope it will ring a bell to government officials whose responsibility is to protect our environment.

    Last night I sent you an e-mail with the Spanish translation of the presentation in case you find a need for it.

    Best Regards,


  2. dear don ray,
    most if not all boston supermarkets do not use plastic bags.

    and ga is moving in that direction.

    very powerful post! thank you. ellen

  3. Hi Omar. I will look for the email. Thanks .

    Hi Ellen. Plastic bags are easier for the consumer, but not the land fills. I would like to see them removed, but it will take a major mind-change for all involved. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  4. Thanks Don for posting this. I am going to use it for a school project with my 5th graders. Our school is a Green School, which means that we are environmentally aware of reusing, reducing, and recycling everything.
    When I lived in Nicaragua, we called the green and pink plastic bags that were scattered everywhere, “Nicaraguan flowers”.

    Creating awareness is the first step before taking action. I’m trying to do my part in creating awareness with my students.

  5. Hi Debbie. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. It took a little effort to change the original PowerPoint presentation into a form that could be posted in the blog. However, if enough people read it and it creates so genuine interest in the dangers, then it was worth the effort.

    The good thing about having it on the blog is that it is available in several languages and the PP slides were in English. Those that need to read in a foreign language can click on the appropriate flag in the language selection of the blog.

  6. Hi Don Ray –
    i am the person who sent the “plastic” email to the person that sent it to you.
    Thank you So Much for posting this – and in another format too! One thing that concerned me as i sent it out was that it would be too large for some to receive, or that they wouldn’t have Power Point on their computers to view it…so this is wonderful!
    i am trying to track down the source for you.
    For anyone out there that has the capability of viewing this presentation with Power Point, i high recommend it! It was very well done and makes even more of an impact in that format.
    i’m just glad more folks are getting to see it, no matter how!
    i would love to have a copy of it when it’s translated, because i too can reach even more people with it in Spanish. i am trying to get it translated into Arabic, but that’s a pretty tall order…well see.
    Anyway, Thanks a Bunch for all your hard work, and for posting this incredibly important, great article.,
    Bulverde, Texas

  7. Hi LB,
    Thanks for sending out the presentation.

    I can alter the PP presentation into Spanish and will do that if any local schools, etc would use it. All they have to do is ask.

    If people don’t have PowerPoint, I recommend that they download a copy of Open Office. That is what I use on my Linux system and it offers several things that are not available to M$ Office users. One I can create PDF files. Second I can edit received PP files. Open Office is free and can be found here.

    It is also environmentally friendly because you don’t have any of those nasty M$ packages to dispose of. 🙂

  8. Most of UK has banned use of plastic bags and the government is considering actually having a bag tax for those that still use them. Its great to see, I’d say 50% of consumers now have the reusable bags and most supermarket’s offer a “bag for life” for a couple of dollars, when it breaks its replaced for free.


  9. Great post, don. I did not realize the vastness of the problem of just plastic bags. I use my cloth bags about 3/4 of the time. This reminder is helping me be aware of using them all the time. Thanks and I hope other people will pass this awareness on as I intend to do.

  10. Wow! I never realized the full impact of using plastic bags. I’m definitely cutting down to at least half immediately and hopefully will fully wean myself off the stuff entirely. I will be sending this article to everyone I know. Thanks for the insight.


  11. Most enlightening post Don!
    I’ll relay and share this information among friends and co-workers because we need to be proactive about this situation. Thanks!

  12. Hi Kevin. Always good to have another point of view. It is easy to surf the Internet and find articles on any side of a debate. Global warming has its proponents and opponents.

    However, for there not to be a problem with plastic bags, there has to be a well established process for recycling the plastic. In countries like Panama, you can bet that no one is taking all of the plastic out of the weekly trash pickups and putting it into a recycle cycle.

    Look at the land fill for Boquete. Plastic in a landfill will not have broken down while any of us are alive. If there is one thing I would not want to do in a 3rd world country, it would be to give anyone the excuse to ignore trash. Panama can use all the encouragement it can get to help its environment. MHO.

  13. Ironic isn’t it. A number of years ago the environmental lobby pressured business to find a replacement for the paper bag as the manufacture & disposal of the paper (grocery) bag uses a lot of chemicals and they don’t decompose very quickly in a landfill (due to no to little oxygen). The approved environmental solution at the time was plastic bags. Now plastic bags are the villain.

    I don’t see a simple solution to plastic bag litter or for that matter the litter problem in general. Clearly Panama has a litter problem that needs to addressed – education is a good start.

    Last month I was in a chino in PC and bought a couple of cokes and presented my cloth bag to put them. The clerk insisted on putting the drinks in plastic bags before putting them in the cloth bag.


  14. Hi Rob. Thanks for taking the time toleave a comment. I doubt if many of the world’s problems will be solved in my lifetime. However, someone needs to work on them. The problem with a lot of studies is that the results of the study may reflect the area that is paying for the study.

    I agree that Panama needs to address its problem.

  15. Hello Don
    i saw this article about plastic bags.. i just agree with it …. ill be more than show people here on your blog how to recycle their plastic bags..
    if you allow me ..i can prepare a nice tutorial.. and show to recycle..and save our planet…
    ahh and by the way.. everyone check on because the world needs to know….

  16. hai Don
    i just read this article. can you please send me the full powerpoint presentation. i agree with it,

  17. Has there been a spanish version done already? We are interested in using it for educational purposes.
    Thanks for sending the spanish if its available, and for all your great work.

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